When football, same-sex marriage and politics collide
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is becoming well-known off the field for his support of same-sex marriage.
September 8th, 2012
02:48 PM ET

When football, same-sex marriage and politics collide

In his 10th NFL season, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is catching more attention for his political views than his special teams talents. And after a Maryland politician slammed his views on same-sex marriage, other NFL players are stepping up to defend Ayanbadejo's freedom of speech.

Ayanbadejo is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage. He filmed video shorts for Equality Maryland and even wrote about same-sex marriage for the Huffington Post in 2009.

State lawmaker and minister Emmett C. Burns Jr. is a self-described Ravens fan, but in a letter sent to team owner Steve Bisciotti, Burns said it was "inconceivable" that Ayanbadejo was publicly endorsing same-sex marriage.

In the letter, written on August 29 and obtained by Yahoo! Sports, Burns wrote, "Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other. Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement.

"I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."

In March, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland, but the law doesn't take effect until 2013.

Amid the political convention-themed tweets filling his profile, Ayanbadejo responded on his Twitter page with this: "Football is just my job it's not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!"

On Friday, he made a statement thanking Burns: "I'd have to thank him more than anything for bringing national attention to the issue." He also expressed surprise that Burns would try to silence him.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a letter for Deadspin. Laced with graphic language and disgust, he berated Burns for his views.

"Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level," Kluwe wrote. "The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words)."

Kluwe went on to address (in the great detail he mentioned) the facets of the First Amendment, Burns' comment about athletes speaking out on issues, freedom in general and how little same-sex marriage would affect Burns' life.

"I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life," Kluwe wrote.

On Saturday, Kluwe published an edited version of the letter on the Twin Cities "Out of Bounds" blog, as well as a response to people complaining about his use of "colorful insults" in the original letter.

"The swearing is there for a reason," he wrote. "What Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote, what I responded to, was far more disgusting and foul minded than any simple scatological reference or genital mashup."

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley also tweeted in support of Ayanbadejo - even though he's not "pro Raven about anything."

NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth told The Baltimore Sun that he was "disappointed" in Burns.

"I don’t know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but his request was asinine," Foxworth told the newspaper. "I think Brendon’s commendable. To step out into the fire and say something controversial, that’s not something that comes lightly."

On Friday, Ayanbadejo told The Baltimore Sun that team president Dick Cass let him know that the Ravens supported Ayanbadejo's ability to voice his opinion, and in a statement, Cass let everyone know that "We support Brendon's right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment" as an organization that doesn't discriminate.

What do you think about the dueling letters and Ayanbadejo's support of same-sex marriage that started it all? Let us know in the comments below.

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Filed under: Football • Politics • Pro football • Same-sex marriage • Sports
soundoff (768 Responses)
  1. Ed Barna

    Damned right it's inconceivable–and the impossibility of this relationship adding to the world's population problem is another plus for it.

    October 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Gary F

    wow, guess someone should write to the maryland senate house leader, and complain about mr burns expressing his views, seeing as he is a public employee and works for the people in his district, they would actually have more right to censor him then he does to censor a tax payer. Since when did get elected mean your better than the citizens who elected you? if he isn't going to practice what he preaches to others, maybe he shouldn't preach it.

    October 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Kerry O

    Free speech is a right guaranteed by the Founders of our coutnry. Discrimination is wrong! How can allowing loving couples to marry hurt anyone? We as Americans have far more important issues to work on than invading citizens bedrooms. All Americans should be treated the same and receive the same rights! It's great that NFL players are involved in being good citizens and speaking out against discrimination!

    October 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Laura WK

    Congrats to everyone who stands up for equality. American men and women soldiers die everyday to defend our freedom. The least we can do is make sure everyone has equal rights at both State and Federal levels.

    October 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

    Conservative mind set is un-American! End the discrimination that has plaugued our country since its inception!

    October 18, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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